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The pushy elephant in the room

19 March 2021

Pour yourself a cup of tea and let's chat about the big fat elephant who stomps through the room of our mind whenever we think about mentioning that we are teaching our baby maths. Yep, it happens to almost ALL of us.


The FEAR and anxiety of being seen as a…

 ! ! ‘A Geek’ ! !

 ! ! ‘A Pushy Parent’ ! !

 ! ! ‘A Tiger Mum’ ! !


There are so many ugly little voices that rear their head. But by NOT talking to your baby about numbers - by avoiding highlighting and enjoying the maths that can be found in every activity and experience - you are cheating your baby out of the head start they deserve.

I’ve experienced the negative associations that seem to go hand in hand with loving maths. When I was younger those labels almost stopped me being the only girl in my year to take further maths A Level. I didn’t want that to be my identity. Even now, when I should know better, those voices in my head almost stopped me publicly sharing all the knowledge I joyfully accumulated about infant numeracy when my babies were born. (Yep, you read that right – joyfully! - I’m ready to admit that maths is fun!)


So you are not alone. 


But I realised this is too important not to share and it makes those worries pale into insignificance.


Know that your baby:

 * will love having ‘The Very Hungry Caterpillar’ read to them and seeing it eat “one apple...two pears…three plums…”

 * will giggle when you count down “5…4…3…2…1…” and blast them upwards whilst singing ‘Zoom, Zoom, Zoom We’re Flying To The Moon’

 * will want you to keep counting higher and higher as they learn to play ‘Hide and Seek’


They won’t think your being pushy or geeky. They will love that special time together.


So tell me, what will you do today to ignore the labels?

Comment below if you have a maths activity planned with your baby.

Or are you ready to share this blog with a friend and spread the new maths label:

 “Teaching Your Baby Maths is for parents who want their baby to thrive!”

Our Second Blog Entry

15 February 2021

THE REAL COST OF MATHS ANXIETY IN THE UK

IS PREVENTION CHEAPER THAN CURE?


“I felt very unwell and nervous.”

“My mind went blank, and I couldn’t focus when I was asked a question.”

What are these primary school pupils referring to? For many, especially teachers who regularly see these reactions first-hand, it will not come as a surprise that they are talking about how they felt in maths lessons.

Why, when you read these statements, are you able to make the link between anxiety and maths so easily? According to Dr Thomas Hunt, the lead psychologist for The Mathematics Anxiety Research Group (MARG) at the University of Derby, anyone can experience maths anxiety. In fact, to varying degrees, most adults will experience it at some point.

While this is not a new phenomenon—the academic study of maths anxiety can be traced back to as early as the 1950s, where Mary Fides Gough introduced the term “mathemaphobia” to describe the phobia-like feelings of many towards mathematics—it is becoming increasingly pressing that it is addressed. The world is becoming ever more reliant on technology, and research points to a growing maths crisis in the UK, where the level of adult numeracy is already relatively low and seemingly getting worse. According to the National Numeracy report, ‘What is the Issue?’, the proportion of adults with functional maths skills equivalent to a GCSE grade C fell from 26% to 22% over a period of eight years. In contrast, functional literacy skills are steadily increasing, with 57% of working-age adults gaining the equivalent level.

Step in Rishi Sunak with a new national programme to address what he referred to as the “tragic” level of poor numeracy skills among UK adults. £560m will certainly not be a wasted investment given the potential boost to individuals’ earnings and productivity, but is there a more cost effective way to address this issue?

It is becoming apparent that maths anxiety can begin very early when young children are learning basic number skills. Dr Dominic Petronzi, a lecturer in psychology at the University of Derby Online Learning, led research that found evidence of maths anxiety in children as young as four-years-old. It makes sense, therefore, to consider how to nip this national curse in the bud rather than wait a generation to plaster over the cracks.

What makes maths so much more stressful than other subjects?

1. First, there can be a noticeable lack of maths role models during infancy. Parents have been shown to influence their children’s perception of maths by avoiding talking about it or even mentioning the subject in a negative way, “I was never any good at maths and it didn’t do me any harm” or “we’re just not a maths family”.

2. On top of this, personal fear of failure seems to be more prevalent in mathematics than in any other subject. The fact that maths questions are so often either right or wrong makes it hard to disguise failure.

3. Then there’s the language of maths that needs to be mastered, with over 500 words expected by age five. Understanding the idea of counting on by two is not enough, children need to know how to “add”, “sum” or “plus” two. It has been shown in a study by Professor of Psychology Koleen McCrink that by nine-months-old most babies show a rudimentary understanding of addition, indicating it is not the concepts that are the tricky part.

When all these factors mix together and you throw in SATs, timed tests, negative evaluations from teachers, peers or parents and the lure of something referred to as the ‘no attempt error’—meaning that a person may reach the stage where they simply stop putting effort into providing answers in maths tasks—you get the perfect breeding ground for maths anxiety to flourish and multiply.

Clearly there is a problem, as highlighted by the fact the UK is sitting firmly in the bottom half of the OECD numeracy skills rankings, the question is: Where is the effort best invested? After the maths anxiety has affected school results and career decisions? Or in infancy where minor tweaks to parenting information and the early year teaching curriculum can prevent maths anxiety taking a hold on society at all? Infants are born with a desire to understand the world around them, a love of learning, and a determination to discover more. By showing babies maths is useful and enjoyable, a £560m adult numeracy kitty could easily and quickly become a thing of the past.





Our First Blog Entry

15 January 2021

Are you thinking about introducing your baby to books and literacy? Probably. But what about maths...?

Here are some things you most definitely DON’T NEED:

❌ A worksheet

📊 A maths degree

⏰ A schedule

And the stuff you DO…

😍 A belief that the world is full of maths, and your baby is full of curiosity

🥰 A desire to bond, learn and grow with your baby

😃 Five minutes every now and then to enjoy exploring your baby’s interests

YOU can give your baby the gift of a life-long love of maths, that is a goal that is tantalisingly within your reach right now!